From September 28th 2018 to January 3rd 2019, MoCA Shanghai will host Mind Temple, a thought-provoking exhibition that presents 24 pieces/groups of artworks by 20 artists from both home and abroad. The works cover numerous topics including artificial intelligence, biotechnology, traditional art and religious experience with as many as 15 pieces specially commissioned for the MoCA’s exhibition.
Marking MoCA’s 13th Anniversary, Mind Temple aims to embrace anthropological topics by providing a perspective that connects science and arts, injects multi-disciplinary dynamics into contemporary art and expands boundaries of artistic exploration and presentation. With this inspiring exhibition, MoCA is also hoping to officially inaugurate its new “crossover +” mindset.
Mystery, Secret and Gate
Back some 2,000 years ago, the profundity of the Universe was depicted in Laozi’s Tao Te Ching as “Reaching from the mystery into the deeper mystery is the gate to the secret of all life.” But now, as scientific breakthroughs such as artificial intelligence, gene technology and information technology constantly rewrite social codes and people-to-people relations, the exhibition is seeking to gather the “secret” of all high technologies under the “gate” of contemporary art museums. The exhibition’s English title, Mind Temple, also metaphorically points to its curatorial concept – using artworks to build a temple of modernity in art museum, extends religious experiences into philosophical thinkings over truth and spirituality and pushes the audience to question life with their own different backgrounds.
Miriam Sun, curator of Mind Temple and Executive Director of MoCA Shanghai, noted: “A ‘temple’ (from the Latin word ‘templum’) is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual rituals and activities such as prayer and sacrifice. Right from its curatorial plan three years ago, the exhibition intends to focus on exploring the ‘mind temple’ of the present-day society. With renewed and transformed mentalities, we’re now having a dialogue with the status quo through this metaphysical structure.”
From Religious Experience to Philosophical Thinking
An exhibition that spans two floors, Mind Temple has a ground level that resembles the structure of a church nave and includes two installations that use contemporary art forms to deconstruct traditional religious iconography. One of them, titled Human Baptisms, comes from Italian artist OlivieroRainaldi, whose minimalist human-shaped installation, presented upside-down, reproduces the solemnity of classical religions, while the other, Born again Light by South Korean artist Lee Leenam, incorporates his signature styles to reinvent the Pietà, Michelangelo Buonarroti’s world-famous sculpture housed in Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Basilica. Though culturally and stylistically different from Jia Yang Le Zhu’s thangkas that combine modern painting skills and Tibetan artist Gade’s Buddhist prayer beads-based Sun series in the same hall, the two installations, however, create a well-versed synergy with the eastern series by forming an interaction and dialogue between religions from both ends of the world.
Going beyond religious topics, what Mind Temple seeks is spiritual beauty and eternal truth that command universal values. Bill Viola’s Return shows the artist’s imagination of mankind’s ultimate destination. Li Lei’s thrilling work of nearly 3,000 wooden skull sculptures stretch over one side of the museum’s crystal wall silently telling the artist’s annotation: “Whenever I pick up a skull and peer through its hollow eyes, they look like a gate that leads to the infinite Universe.” By resurrecting his mother’s image in memory through repeated paintings, Yan Peiming’s work My Mother not only expresses endless yearning, but also completes a dialogue of souls for the artist. And Halo by Shi Zhiying materializes halos behind Buddha heads seen in China’s Dunhuang frescoes into an artistic installation and extends learning delivered at places of worship to explorations about universal spirit and world order.
When Art Museum Embraces Artificial Intelligence and Biotechnology
At the entrance to Mind Temple stands a large installation of the same name, jointly created by celebrated contemporary calligrapher Wang Dongling and an AI technical team to demonstrate how traditional culture uses modern technology to pursue both inheritance and disruption.
And the exhibition’s second floor is occupied by 398 anthropomorphic robots (known as ‘Wu Kong’), as the project titled The Window to the Soul. The artwork attempts to deconstruct the rivalry between “manual work” and “intelligence” through a mutual gaze between man-made screens and human eyes. Yet, the application of AI is not just seen in the exhibition’s artworks, but more comprehensively immersed into the curatorial plan, as MoCA will specially launch guide robots to provide never-seen-before visitor experiences that are based on practical science.
At the same time, the presence of bioscience and technology has also helped artists explore the ultimate topic of existence. Resorting to multiple contemporary art approaches such as videography and new media interactive installation, a number of projects at Mind Temple discusses issues such as DNA bioengineering, cell reproduction and cosmos movement, while questioning mankind’s current pursuit of “immortality” by technical means. In the exhibition’s preface, curator Miriam Sun touches on the significance of the cross-over exhibition: “By referring to Martin Heidegger’s arguments, we hope to return to the field of ‘aletheia’, or truth, within the realm of covering and uncovering while questioning technology.”
Agatha Haines 阿加莎·海恩斯
Ai Hasegawa 长谷川爱
Bill Viola 比尔·维奥拉
嘉阳乐住 Jiayang Lezhu
井士剑 Jing Shijian
Julijonas Urbonas 尤里乔纳斯·阿伯那斯
蒋志 Jiang Zhi
林嘉澍 Lin Jiashu
李磊 Li Lei
Marina Nuñez 玛丽娜·努涅兹
Oliviero Rainaldi 欧立仁
石至莹 Shi Zhiying
优必选创作团队UBTECH Creative Team
严培明 Yan Peiming
杨青青 Yang Qingqing
231（程俏俏，李元素，许育丰，阳阳） 231(Cheng Qiaoqiao, Element Lee, Hsu Yu-Fong, Sun Sun)